With Narendra Modi increasingly taking centre stage as BJPs possible Prime Ministerial candidate, the voice of Modi baiters is becoming shriller. Most critics have two sticks to beat him with - 2002 riots and malnourishment. Let's take a few recent articles in this genre:
India, as dreamt up by Modi by Salil Tripathi in Mint
All the perfumes of Arabia by Markandey Katju in Outlook
What makes Modi unacceptable by Rohit Pradhan in Outlook
Salil Tripathi says that Modi had no big idea for India when he spoke at the Shri Ram College of Commerce in New Delhi. Modi spoke of exports, education, teachers training, agricultural growth, industrial development, employment generation and Tripathi could see no big ideas. Modi's biggest idea is to spur people on to realise their dreams and aspirations. Tripathi completely missed it and he may have done well to read Sandipan Deb's "Modi's motivational message" in the same paper. Of course, it is true that Gujarat existed before Modi, and Modi has never claimed that before him Gujarat was a barren land of illiterate, poor people whom he has shown the light. He has never claimed to be the Moses that his critics say that he claims to be.
What he has rightfully laid claims to is that under the BJPs rule Gujarat has performed better than before and governance is much improved. Time and again various central ministries have lauded the state of Gujarat for its implementation of various central schemes and held it up as a model to follow. Modi has achieved all this without pandering to the lowest common denominator of electoral politics - free distribution of TVs, mixers and grinders, power, reservations based on religion etc. If only in this, then Modi stands alone and head and shoulders above his contemporaries. What are Tripathi's big ideas or the ones that he would have loved to hear?
Tripathi goes on to accuse that the youth wing members of the BJP heckled the few hundred protesters outside SRCC. He conveniently forgets to mention that a couple of thousand students were cheering him inside the auditorium and that the protesters outside also belonged to different political parties. And for a person who can see nothing right with Modi, he goes on to say that some of the women protesters who were arrested have said that they were groped at the police station. Tripathi sitting in London probably doesn't know that Delhi is ruled by the Congress and the Delhi police is under the control of the central government, also run by a Congress led alliance.
He goes on to write, "And is that the shape of things to come, of a leader addressing the cult, while some women protesters got molested...". So the SRCC students are now part of an imaginary cult and women protesters were molested! Where did Tripathi source his information from? His allegation sounds more and more like Rahul Gandhi's discovery of graves in Bhatta-Parsaul ahead of the elections in Uttar Pradesh. In Rahul Gandhi's favour at least is the fact that he travelled to Bhatta-Parsaul, which is more than what can be said of Tripathi. Today this passes off for journalism. India, as dreamt of by Modi, was very well articulated by Modi in his speech at SRCC, if only Tripathi had listened to it. It is an India which is prosperous, and without vote bank politics, whether that is based on caste, creed, religion, gender or age.
Markandey Katju in his piece writes, "To those who talk of development of Gujarat under Modi I ask this question: Should the malnourished children of Gujarat eat the roads, electricity and factories which Modi has created?"
And in the survey conducted by Katju (what else can it be since he has so emphatically written about it), "The truth today is that Muslims in Gujarat are terrorized and afraid that if they speak out against the horrors of 2002 they may be attacked and victimized. In the whole of India Muslims (who are over 200 million of the people of India) are solidly against Modi (though there are a handful of Muslims who for some reason disagree)." So Katju has surveyed over 200 million Muslims. But then what explains BJPs victory in Muslim dominated constituencies in recent Gujarat elections as well as the recent municipal elections? Probably in Justice Katju's views, a silly question by an Indian idiot.
How many Muslims in Gujarat has Katju spoken to? During my visit to Gujarat in November, I spoke to two for considerable length of time. They certainly did not look terrorised and discussed politics quite freely. While Katju may not know the reason why some Muslims disagree, these two Muslims very clearly said that communalism has been a scourge of Gujarat, like the rest of India, for long and this is the first time that ten years of tranquillity and peace has been enjoyed in Gujarat. Both these individuals run businesses - one is Nadeem Jaffri who runs Hearty Mart enterprises, a retail venture and the other is Talha Sareshwala, CEO & MD, of Parsoli Motors. Of course, there are Muslims who would not discuss politics and would shy away from it. But even in the lanes of Juhapura, during an earlier visit, small entrepreneurs like tentwallahs happily said that business was booming since Gujarat was growing.
Since Justice Katju is extremely knowledgeable about most things from the percentage of Indians who are idiots to what 200 million plus Muslims want, maybe he should speak to those very few Muslims and try and understand why they are ok with Modi. I am sure if Modi were to lose power tomorrow many of these same people will come out and criticise because they did lose property and businesses when the 2002 riots happened. While at it, Justice Katju has one final mystery to solve "as to what exactly happened in Godhra, and who was responsible for the killings." Didn't the kar sevaks burn themselves, as per a committee appointed by the then Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav?
Katju has criticised the human development indicators of the people of Gujarat and has rightly asked should they eat electricity, roads and factories. Like all of Gujarat's development has not happened in the last ten years, similarly Gujarat's human development indicators are not necessary a reflection of what has happened only in the last ten years. It's a legacy of the last sixty years of "development". Gujarat's human development indicators (HDI) in most cases is better than the all India average. While it is not the best in India, it is nowhere close to being the worst and its improvement in the last ten years is in most cases among the best. That is why it features among the top performing states in India Today's annual rankings consistently. However, there is no gain saying that the HDI indicators of India and Gujarat as well are appalling. When starvation deaths happen in Thane district, what can be more shameful than that for India.
And for those who want to quote Modi's remarks to Wall Street Journal on malnourishment of figure conscious women, please go and listen to the audio recording available on the Journal's website. Modi said that the dietary habits of Gujarati's has lacked proteins and then half in jest his comment as about middle class and upper middle class women. His comment was not on all malnourished children. Further it may be worthwhile for the critics to see what the BJP government has proposed in his year's budget and the amount of resources allocated to improve healthcare and nourishment.